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Shock and Dismay As Guildford House Gallery Café Announces Closure

Published on: 19 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 21 Nov, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

There was shock and dismay amongst the many loyal customers of the Guildford House Gallery Café when the owner, Phineas Williams, announced the closure on Tuesday (November 16). Mr Williams said the cafe’s last day of trading will be Saturday, December 18.

Sign on the pavement outside Guildford House. But the cafe is now due to close on December 18.

Regulars, from Fairlands, John and Pam Cridland, said: “We’ve been coming here for years. It good food and reasonable prices. If there is anything which could be done to keep Phineas here, it should be.”

Phineas told The Dragon it had hit him “hard and emotionally”. In a statement on Facebook, he said: “It is with huge sadness I have to inform you all that after 21 years we are forced to close. It is the last thing we want and I am devastated.

“I’d like to give a huge and heartfelt thank you to all of you. You changed my life and you’ve been magnificent. I couldn’t have asked for lovelier regulars. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”

Owner Phineas Williams at the Guildford House Gallery Cafe was hit “hard and emotionally”.

And in another post, Mr Williams said: “We’ve tried and tried but the council has become toxic. Not just my business but many others are affected.”

But the council were adamant they had worked with Phineas to keep the café at Guildford House open.

Lead councillor for regeneration, John Redpath (R4GV, Holy Trinity) said he had been a regular customer for many years and he said he would “miss this fantastic venue that has always provided good affordable food and a pleasant atmosphere. It’s a great shame that Phineas has decided to close the café”.

He added that they were “sorry to receive the termination notice from Phineas” to close the café.

Gallery Cafe marquee at the back of Guildford House. The rear of the house is undergoing essential repairs says the council.

He said GBC had made “significant efforts” including negotiating with SCC to obtain pedestrian access to the café from North Street, installing a new electrical supply for the marquee to be safely heated during the winter months as well as expensive cantilevered screened scaffolding to help the café continue trading throughout most of the essential repair works being carried out at Guildford House.

“All of which now seem to have been in vain.” said Mr Redpath.

“I’m sure everyone who knows him, will wish Phineas well in any future venture he may take on. It’s a great shame that we couldn’t work through the new lease with him in order to arrive at a satisfactory outcome.”

The Gallery Café is in the Grade I listed Guildford House (c 1660) which is undergoing essential repairs to the rear wall.

Social media messages were overwhelmingly supportive.

Devastating news but I know there is something perfect for you out there.” said one and “Oh no. Sorry to hear this news. Such a fabulous spot in Guildford. Thank you for all your hard work over the years. My children and I shall miss this special place.

Another expressed concern over the fate of Guildford House itself saying: “It is very worrying that the most unique cafe in Guildford is going to close. What next? The equally unique [Guildford] House? The Castle? The Museum?”

The issue of how best for the council to use their assets, including reportedly Guildford House and even the council offices at Millmead, are reportedly being discussed by councillors as they battle to make budget savings to close down the looming deficit.

See also: What Is the Council Planning for Our Heritage Assets?

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test 3 Responses to Shock and Dismay As Guildford House Gallery Café Announces Closure

  1. Julian Chase Reply

    November 20, 2021 at 12:18 am

    Save money by giving up the city status bid.

    As far as I can see, no case has been made (beyond emotive social media posts) for precisely how city status will add value specifically to Guildford. Guildford is prominent enough, successful enough and already has a colossal global city on its doorstep.

    Simply by providing value for money wherever possible and ensuring Guildford is well run and keeps its quirky and irreplaceable assets (such as the Gallery House Café) GBC will attract businesses to the town.

    Editor’s note: The council leader has said that the city status bid will be funded by business sponsors.

  2. Amanda Creese Reply

    November 20, 2021 at 11:53 am

    This is so sad. Another unique small business in Guildford going.

    We need places like this in town. How many more high-end jewellers and clothing retailers do we need?

    Guildford is a unique place with historic buildings and the quirky lanes that run between the main streets. Other towns and cities make a feature of such an environment, but to develop this needs imagination and support for small ventures.

    I don’t know where I can go now with friends for a coffee, cake and a natter at a reasonable price. Come on GBC and SCC. I know money is tight, but start thinking outside the box and make Guildford a place to be before the tumbleweed starts blowing down the High Street.

  3. Valerie Charles Reply

    November 20, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    This is such a shame. The cafe is an oasis of calm in the town.

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